If you were part of a church youth group or summer camp during the 1970’s, chances are you’re familiar with the tale of “Barrington Bunny.”
Part of The Way of the Wolf, a collection of stories, poems and songs by the late Martin Bell, “Barrington Bunny” is the story of a lop-eared, furry brown bunny with “unusually shiny eyes” who, encouraged by a great and mysterious silver wolf on one snowy Christmas Eve, sets out to give special gifts to several animal families living in the forest: sticks for the beavers’ house, dead grass and leaves for the squirrels’ nest, and so on. As night begins to fall and a blizzard approaches, Barrington discovers a baby field mouse lost and separated from his family, and now in danger of freezing. Knowing that bunnies are furry and warm, Barrington covered the little mouse, hugging him tightly throughout the long, cold night as she slept safe and sound. The next morning, wrote Bell, “the field mice found their little boy, asleep in the snow, warm and snug beneath the furry carcass of a dead bunny. Their relief was so great that they didn’t even think to question where the bunny had come from.”
And that’s pretty much where the story ends.
Needless to say, “Barrington Bunny” is a story that while extremely sad, offers up a powerful message about giving and sacrifice. I’ve actually read the story aloud a number of times over the years to youth groups, confirmation classes, and even a couple of times during a service of worship. I particularly remember one such occasion when afterward there was this sweet little girl from our congregation who came up to me after the service, her eyes red and welled up with tears, and said to me (and quite angrily, I might add), “Reverend Lowry, you didn’t finish the story!”
Taken a bit aback by both her tears and her tone, I stammered back, “Well… yes, I did… I’m sorry, but that’s where the story ends!” To she replied, with tears still flowing cheeks, “No! It doesn’t end there! The bunny is supposed to come back to life!”
And, of course, not only was this little girl very perceptive, she was also right.
As I write these words we are in the midst of Holy Week where finally our shared Lenten journey brings us to the foot of the cross, the place where Jesus died to bring us salvation before God; and it is most certainly a difficult and painful place for us to be as we recall – and indeed, accept our own part in – the betrayal and desertion, humiliation and torture faced by our Savior. And yet, just as we cannot come to the joy of Easter without first confronting the horror of Good Friday, we must also never forget that our faith does not end on a wooden cross at Golgotha. Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, we are brought to new life and eternity by the resurrection! Our journey will eventually take us to the empty tomb and the sure and certain promise that in Christ there will be no tomb that can hold us, no death that can ever defeat us; for as Jesus himself has said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”(John 11:25 NRSV)
But that said, at least as far as our Christian calendar is concerned the fulfillment of that promise is still yet to come; but for now, we wait, letting our pain and the depth of his sacrifice sink in as deeply as it should. Yes, we do know that there’s more to this story than what’s been told, but we’ll get to that part later on, for we have more than enough to consider before reading on…
Interestingly enough, there is still a little bit left in Bell’s story of Barrington Bunny that we don’t always remember. We’re told that all through that Christmas Day, “Barrington’s frozen body simply lay in the snow,” alone in the forest except for the presence of a great and mysterious silver wolf who stood beside “that brown lop-eared carcass,” waiting “without moving or saying a word” until it was nightfall.
Sometimes, you see, the most important thing we can do is to wait earnestly and prayerfully; and for us on this holiest of weeks, the time for that is now.
May God guide us and bless us as we do so.
c. 2016 Rev. Michael W. Lowry